Music Reviews

Josh Roseman Unit


Knitting Factory / Velour

Jazz album of the year. Who cares if it’s only January? This is it, right here. But that’s not really fair, because this album was recorded in 1998, was supposed to be released in ‘99 and then 2000, and actually was released in Europe last year. So it’s really the jazz album of the last three years. It’s that good.

Rebel trombonist Roseman has been a sideman for everyone in the world, and it was high time he stepped out on his own. So he assembled a cast of the most kickin’ noo-jazz musicians in the U.S. – John Medeski on keys, Dave Fiuczynski and Ben Monder on guitars, and Joey Baron on drums, among others who are lesser-known – and recruited his mentor Lester Bowie to blast some trumpet stylings on these songs, all of which could peel the paint off walls. But listen to these song choices: a doom-laden take on Led Zep’s “Kashmir”; a messier-sounding arrangement of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; an eerie recreation of Miles Davis’ early 1960s sound on The Beatles’ “If I Fell”; two different Sun Ra songs; a Marvin Gaye smooth jam; a weird, dissonant “Don’t Be Cruel”; and three originals with names like “Trousertrout.” Very strange.

And very compelling. Roseman can play that thang, switching from Skatalite-skank (“Daddy Gonna Tell You No Lie”) to avant-garde big band (“Land of Make Believe”) in a heartbeat. He plays dirty, and he often neglects to empty that spitvalve on purpose, so don’t go thinking that this is a sweet-sounding record. It’s not. It’s just great. Fiuczynski plays some stinging metal work all over this disc, Bowie blurts like his house is on fire, and many of these songs are uncategorizable – so much so that my buddy J., who has great musical taste, hated this disc immediately. But, y’know, he’s wrong and I’m right.

Roseman’s out there, and you shouldn’t listen to this if you have preconceived notions of anything. But if you have an open mind and/or an open heart, dive right in to this mess and see if it doesn’t make you happy in all its rock and roll and jazz and soul glory.

Plus, it has a song called “Trousertrout.”

Josh Roseman:

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